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On August 5, 1999, about 2144 central daylight time, a Piper PA-28R-200, N56718, was destroyed when it contacted power lines and impacted terrain 3/4 of a mile southwest of Campbell Airport, Grayslake, Illinois. The instrument rated commercial pilot, private pilot rated passenger, and two passengers sustained fatal injuries. The 14 CFR Part 91 flight was not operating on a flight plan. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed during the flight. The personal flight, destined for Campbell Airport, departed Lake Lawn Airport, Delavan, Wisconsin, at an undetermined time. The flight was approaching Campbell Airport at the time of the accident.
At 2126, the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) ORD-9 radar antenna, located at latitude 41 degrees 58' 49" N, longitude 087 degrees 55' 42" W, began tracking an aircraft encoding transponder standard Visual Flight Rules (VFR) 1200 beacon code, 4 nautical Miles (NM) south of Lake Lawn Airport at 2,800 feet mean sea level (MSL). That recorded flight track was consistent with a direct flight from Lake Lawn Airport to Campbell Airport. At 2135, the radar data showed that target's location as 21 NM southeast of Lake Lawn Airport at a maximum tracked altitude of 3,200 feet MSL. The radar tracked that target through a descent to its last recorded position, approximately 1 NM southwest of Campbell Airport at 900 feet MSL. That target disappeared from radar after 2140. See appended radar plot.
In a statement, a witness said, "the aircraft was flying at a low altitude, due north and passed directly in front of me as I was driving eastbound [on Route 60 between Bacon Road and Chardon Road]. The engine noise sounded normal and all lights appeared to be working. The plane appeared to start a left (northwest) turn as I saw its left wing tip flashing light dip low and the right wing tip flashing light rise. I then saw the planes landing lights illuminate a high power tension line tower. I then ... saw three flashes of blue light in the sky."
In his written statement, another witness said, "I heard some banging, a variation of an airplane engine sound (maybe a second or two); what I thought sounded like people yelling, and popping like firecrackers ... all at about the same time when I saw an intense amount of sparks approximately 190 degrees from where I was standing which was overlooking the East/West runways [at Campbell Airport] where there were no obstructions in front of my view." He further stated, "Next I heard an airplane go to full power and saw (what I thought looked like) the silhouette of an airplane (it was dark out) go straight down into the ground ... followed by the engine sound going to an extremely high rev for another second or two before stopping. I heard the crash, felt the crash, and saw an explosion (plume of sparks, flames and a huge cloud of black smoke take to the evening sky). The intensity of the explosion lasted just a couple seconds."
The tower supporting the high voltage wires was found with one of its cables torn 20 feet west of its location. Another cable attached to that tower was found with a nick 25 feet west of the tower. The torn and nicked cables were supported from cross arms located nine feet below the tower's top. The tower height was 132.25 feet above ground level (AGL). Campbell Airport's elevation was 788 feet MSL. See appended tower drawing.
The pilot had a commercial pilot rating and instrument rating. He held a Second Class Medical Certificate dated November 2, 1998. This medical certificate had a limitation stating that he must wear corrective lenses while acting as a pilot. The pilot's logbook was reviewed. The logbook showed 1250 hours of flight time. The last recorded night flight was June 29, 1998.
The pilot rated passenger had a private pilot rating. The private pilot held a Third Class Medical Certificate dated July 17, 1998.
The aircraft was a Piper PA-28R-200 Arrow, manufactured in 1973, serial number 28R7435033. The original standard airworthiness certificate was issued on October 3, 1973 and a replacement certificate was issued on August 22, 1986. The airplane's annual inspection was dated October 1, 1998. A hand written log was found, in the cockpit, listing: 6/21, 30.8-30=.8; 7/06, 31.4-30.8=.6; 7/06, 32.3-31.4=.9; 7/11, 33.8-32.3=1.5; 7/12, 35.5-33.8=1.7; 7/26, 37.6-36.6=1.0; 8/01, 38.8-37.6=1.2; 8/02, 40.3-38.8=1.5; and 8/05 40.3.
At 2153, the Palwaukee Airport, Wheeling, Illinois observation was: Wind 160 degrees at 5 knots; visibility 10 statute miles; sky condition clear; temperature 18 degrees C; dew point 13 degrees C; altimeter 30.00 inches of mercury.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane fuselage, nose, empennage, and right wing came to rest about 189 feet north of and about 92 feet west of a tower supporting high voltage wires. The propeller was found separated from the engine and lodged in dirt about six inches below the surface. The tower was located at latitude 42 degrees 18.799' N, and longitude 088 degrees 04.895' W. The left wing was found at latitude 42 degrees 18.815' N, and longitude 088 degrees 04.947' W.
An on scene inspection of the airplane revealed that there was control continuity to all control surfaces. Further investigation revealed that there was engine continuity. A thumb compression was found at all cylinders and a fluid discharged from the engine driven fuel pump's line while the engine was rotated. The left magneto was found damaged and the right magneto produced spark at all four leads when turned by hand.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Autopsies were performed on both pilots by the Lake County Coroner's Office, Waukegan, Illinois on August 6, 1999.
The FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute prepared final Forensic Toxicology Fatal Accident Reports. The report on the pilot was negative. The report on the pilot rated passenger indicated 0.116 (ug/ml, ug/g) Dihydrocodeine detected in Urine, 0.176 (ug/ml, ug/g) Hydrocodone detected in Urine, and 0.124 (ug/ml, ug/g) Hydromorphone detected in Urine.
In his written statement, a witness stated that his wife "saw a ball of flame falling to the ground." He said that they observed the fire for approximately 5 minutes and that the fire was reddish/yellow in color. He stated that the fire "seemed to die out rather rapidly" and that the fire was near the high-tension wires.
Another witness stated that he saw a black cloud of smoke rising into the air and "saw a small fire on the ground in a field north of rte 60."
An on scene inspection revealed the fire was limited to the detached left wing. The left wing was found covered with a soot like substance. The left wing's fuel tank was found crushed rearward from its leading edge to the spar and was discolored. The left main landing gear was found charred under the wing. The ground under the fuel tank was found without vegetation and had a faint fuel like smell. The trees and vegetation around the wing did not reveal any signs of fire.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
The fuel servo was examined and tested at RLB Accessories, Addison, Illinois. A general inspection revealed a damaged low throttle stop. Both the throttle and mixture linkages moved freely. The inlet screen was found clean, free of debris, and rust. The unit was mounted to a test bench. The servo leaked testing fluid from the mixture/idle cut off seal and its o-ring was replaced. The servo produced readings within service limits for two of the three test parameters. At the zero inches of water parameter, the servo's reading was above service limits. The test was repeated three times with the same indicated readings. The idle cut off was rotated three times and its readings indicated a rise and a cut off of fluid flow.
Parties to the investigation were the FAA, Textron Lycoming, and The New Piper Aircraft, Inc.
The airplane wreckage was released to a representative of USAIG insurance.